The positive and negative sides of using newspapers as a historical source
Hogir Hassan Pirdawood
Lecturer-Department of History, College of Arts, Salahaddin University, Kirkuk Street, Erbil City , Kurdistan Region- IRAQ
In the past few decades, using newspapers in historical research has been a debatable topic among scholars. Some historians believe that the press has a great value to be used as a historical source. However, others think that newspapers are unreliable sources to be used in historical research. With the development of technology and its impact on human's daily life, newspapers, as a periodical publication including regular information and comment on foreign and domestic political events, containing a substantial proportion of their content, and appearing at least once a week1, have changed. in contrast to other types of culture products such as books, documents, letters, novels and others that have been used by historian as historical source s.
The purpose of this essay is to analyse advantages and disadvantages of using newspapers as historical sources. This study includes the analysis of the quality of newspaper information, the value of letters to editor, the importance of newspaper photographs and the digitisation of newspaper. Also, this essay analy s es the bad impact of censorship on newspaper information and the negative effect of commercial force on news products.
There are some advantages for using newspapers. First of all, newspapers are comprehensive sources. They cover all of the news that takes place during a day. They provide local and global news stories, announcements, opinions, advertisements, cartoons, television listings and sport news. It is a significant method to let people know everything which is happening in the neighbourhood and around the world. Even with the development in computer technology, newspapers continue to be a necessary aspect of daily life2. If newspaper material is compared with any other source, it will be seen that newspaper provides the extraordinary detail, illumination, precision and clarity which historians look for3.
In addition, newspapers provide great information about economic, political, social and cultural life in the past. A good critical reading of newspapers can lead to important insight into how cultures or societies had come to understand themselves also the world around them. Also, they easily lead themselves to the work of comparative analysis, providing windows onto the intellectual culture which prevailed in a special time, area or society4. Newspaper is the only efficient way of providing political information. It is allowed by the regularity of its publication to pick up every topic which is important5. As Jones says "the only true history of country (England) is to be found in its newspapers"6. A picture of the press is pointed by historian an active force in history, as something which intervened in political, cultural and social relationship. In these contexts, the role of press is attracting increasing attention from historians. A growing interest in searching the language, ideas and habits which helped to make the sense which people were able to make of political realities and social orders in the past7, individual section of different newspapers can usually make up significant aspects of a variety of digital collection, some of digital collections have used selected newspaper articles to search historical events, some use newspaper images of special time periods, others use advertisements to find the economic patterns or material culture of given time8. Also, newspapers are forums for dialogue, opinion and debate of people who read them. A wide range of correspondence from the readers is printed by newspaper. They let the readers of a paper to express their fears, their opinion s, their hopes and their grievances9. Newspapers can present a treasure trove of different information, but with all research, you have to evaluate and judge the pieces of information next to other research and documents you have already collected. Also, pieces of information which are found in a newspaper can point toward other information and other documents such as important land records. Many newspapers of different small towns are published weekly rather than daily that can present the publication date for a story you are looking for10. But, it is necessary for historian to know the parts of the newspaper and what information each one includes11.
Some of the historians who use newspaper articles as sources have complained that their works have been limited due to lack of relevant newspapers. Some historians analysed twenty newspapers which was published from 1860 to 1910, in order to discover the value of newspapers as historical materials. Their research study was clearly designed based on the lack of microfilm and other contents. Another historian who studies strikes and political violence complained that one of the largest issues in using newspaper to encourage his research is that the collections available to him are not enough12.
In addition, newspaper information is published immediately after happening events, so that they can be used as primary sours. For example, newspapers have played a vital role in the daily life of USA. They have served as an importance of historical sources which include secondary and primary, for scholars of different disciplines, students, teachers, librarians and genealogists. They have served a large number of functions which include saving a daily chronicle of events, serving like a political institution and promoting free speech. There is no other source which is as wide in its scope of possible content or as comprehensive in its covering of daily life. Local newspapers can present an important deal of information about the men who involved in the First World War as a soldier. Through reported interviews with the soldiers, who are still in life, can provide, on occasions, nearly immediate personal accounts of events in war, they can provide some indication of how the local community was influenced by the war and how the local community responded to news received about the war. They provide a local dimension and some considerable distance away to great battles. The World War as an aspect of local history is present by local newspapers, newspapers can also provide a local of view of an enormous, lengthy, terrible and complex international event. Also, the reports may contain important information, which may be quite surprising, and not included in battalion war diaries or regimental histories14. However, all popular demonstrations were not reported by the press, even all popular demonstrations on national political issues were not reported by the press. In certain situations, newspapers deliberately ignored them, because they unduly threatened social order or newspapers took the opposite political side15.
Secondly, the fact that newspapers provide letters is also of great importance Letters' pages intend to include readers who both literally and symbolically feel a sense of importance and particular communication, their letter should be selected for publication. In addition, newspapers play an important role in communicating the identity of a newspaper given which they try to recreate the discourse and preoccupations of their readers such as expressed in their daily postbag. As a result, newspapers letters pages stay one of the most popular features of newspapers and represent a significant site for resistance and reproduction of discourse on and around nations. Also, letters to the editor are a strong feature of newspaper discourse16, because historians use letters to represent the views of newspaper editors and to illustrate those of their readership. Letters are a method of exploring what subjects were significant through a time period. Many scholars have used editorials and letters to editor to search and discover themes of sexism and racism, especially what sort of language was used and how different groups were described. For instance, one historian studied the editorials of Marsh Murdock published in The Wichita Eagle in the 1870 and 1880, and letters written in answer by local people to explain differing of principle of domestic ideology.
Letters that published in newspapers suggest a very good deal about the paper and its readers. First, readers write letters, they use their ideas, arguments and observations. Second, letters are often written in answer to previous articles in that newspaper, therefore they say something about the information values of the newspaper. Third, the editor in that newspaper select and print letters again, this provides an indication of the newspaper's news values, also about how the paper intends to represent the opinions of readerships. Newspapers use to distinguish between the letter to be spiked and the good letters to be contained. However, the letters columns are obviously not representative of public opinion and more closely reflect the arguments and opinions of an articulate minority17. For example, the local press refused to publish letters sent to their editors by the Labour party in a debate on the situation of the Birmingham Liberal Association in January 187618.
The third is that newspaper information is passed through different filters which give newspaper a great value. It would be different with other kind of products such as letter. Most news which takes place during a day or week can possibly appear in a newspaper, this type of raw material which comes from different kinds of news events have to therefore pass through different filters, in order to be acceptable to publish after reporters and editors decide the news is possible to be accessed by the public, these filters include fixing the premises of discourse and interpretation of their stories. Then, newspapers are not neutral types of information, but rather filters and gatekeepers of different ideas19. Newspaper is not the same as other cultural products, such as memoirs, novels and letters which are created by a single author, but, it is produced by a big, complex machinery of literary production and layered social connection. So, no single individual is completely responsible, even in publishing a news article20. Newspapers had become more acceptable the legitimate subject of research and as historical source. The articles of newspapers started to be used in education, particularly in the teaching of journalism, politics and history21. They are written by committee. Each article from newspaper has to go through various editorial stages, they are not written by individuals, usually, large number of people who are contributed in its production22. As, Richardson says'' objectivity is a key defining value understanding the practices of modern journalism and hence is an issue of perennial interest or students of journalism discourse''23. Newspapers do not only provide their readership what is happening in everywhere of the world, but also instruct them in all imaginable line of action and thought. It is difficult to imagine how newspapers can make much more progress than they have already made, either as guides of public opinion or as business concerns24.
1 B. Harris, Politics and the rise of the press (London, 1996), p.4.
2 Newspapers, http://www.abcteach.com/free/r/readinganewspaper.pdf, accessed 27/12/2012
3 The Many Uses of Newspapers, http://dlxs.richmond.edu/d/ddr/docs/papers/usesofnewspapers.pdf, accessed 14/11/2012
4 S. Vella, ' Newspapers', in M .Dobson and B. Ziemann, Reading primary sources ( London, 2009), p 192. `
5 A. Jones, Power of the press: Newspapers, power and the public in nineteenth- century England, (Aldershot, 1996), P.180.
6 Ibid, P.59.
7 B. Harris, Politics and the rise of the press (London, 1996), p. 81.
8 The Many Uses of Newspapers, http://dlxs.richmond.edu/d/ddr/docs/papers/usesofnewspapers.pdf, accessed 14/11/2012
9 J. E. Richardson . Analysing newspaper: an approach from critical discourse analysis (Basingstoke, 2007), p. 149.
10 Newspaper Research, http://www.genwriters.com/genguides/newspaper.pdf, accessed 24/12/2012
11 Newspapers, http://www.abcteach.com/free/r/readinganewspaper.pdf, 27/12/2012
12 The Many Uses of Newspapers, http://dlxs.richmond.edu/d/ddr/docs/papers/usesofnewspapers.pdf, accessed 14/11/2012
13 The Many Uses of Newspapers, http://dlxs.richmond.edu/d/ddr/docs/papers/usesofnewspapers.pdf, accessed 14/11/2012
14 The Western Front Association, http://www.westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-people/research-family-story/402-news-archives.html, accessed 13/12/2012
15 B. Harris, Politics and the rise of the press (London, 1996), p. 94.
16 J. E. Richardson. Analysing newspaper: an approach from critical discourse analysis (Basingstoke, 2007), p. 149.
17 J. E. Richardson. Analysing newspaper: an approach from critical discourse analysis (Basingstoke, 2007), pp. 151-152.
18 A. Jones, Power of the press: Newspapers, power and the public in nineteenth- century England (Aldershot, 1996), P.197.
19 S. Vella, ' Newspapers', in M .Dobson and B. Ziemann, Reading primary sources ( London, 2009), p. 192.
20 S. Vella, ' Newspapers', in M .Dobson and B. Ziemann, Reading primary sources ( London, 2009), pp. 192-193.
21 A. Jones, Powers of the press: newspapers, power and the public in nineteenth century England, (Aldershot, 1996), p. 66.
22 F. M. Douglas , Scottish newspapers, language and identity (Edinburgh, 2009), P. 63.
23 J. E. Richardson, Analysing newspaper: an approach from critical discourse analysis (Basingstoke, 2007), P. 86.
24 A. Jones, Powers of the press: newspapers, power and the public in nineteenth century England (Aldershot, 1996), p. 65.
Importance of Newspaper essay: Newspaper is an important part of our life. Yes, it’s not looking that much important after digital evolution but people who know its importance still buying and reading. And according to the Wikipedia India is the biggest newspaper market in the world and over 100 million copies sold each day.
Here you can go for facts and figures
Nowadays with the help of internet technologies, eNewspaper is replacing printed version. And the biggest benefit for people is that they can read newspapers on tablets, computer and mobile.
Learn in points, why the newspaper is important?
Importance of newspaper in education
Newspaper and news can play important role in the development of education in any country by using the news as a practical example of theory students are learning in books.
Such as if students are learning in college and school about demonetization methods, disadvantages and advantages then teachers can showcase the demonetization content from the newspaper. They can include how demonetizations effecting society and real-life examples.
The benefits of using the news as an example for students that they can understand better about the subject from the newspaper it’s because the news is trending and relate a various practical aspect of the classroom subjects.
Another example such as political science students learns in 11th or 12th about the powers of prime minister in India.
Now teachers can explain those uses of powers by current prime minister daily activities. Actions and that relate to content in the newspaper.
According to above examples, I think a newspaper can play very important role in the development of practical education.
Importance of newspaper for students
Students can get various benefits from newspaper reading. Such as newspaper increase the vocabulary. English learners can increase their vocabulary from the newspaper.
Even economic students, Hindi language students, political science students and students of various subjects can find new words, use of words from newspaper according to their interests and subjects.
For example, it’s great for economics students to learn “economic page on the newspaper, where political science and Hindi language or literature students can read editorial page.
Newspaper reading not only benefits students in their subjects but also improve the general knowledge and knowledge of culture and trends in various parts of the country.
More than this, career pages, career point, jobs/career etc. are weekly published pages on a newspaper that helps students to learn and get knowledge about various jobs, exams and career-related issues.
Importance of newspaper for shopkeepers and business owners
In India, almost all shopkeepers and offices are regular users of the newspaper. The newspaper helps shopkeepers, business owners, entrepreneurs to understand the current economic trends, market prices, new laws and government policies and festival dates. So they can prepare the stock and understand demand and supply.
Also, old newspapers help them to use it for package small items such as milk packet, spices and various other things.
Importance of newspaper for housewives
Weekly special pages of Hindi English newspaper helps housewives to learn about new cooking recipes. Such as Amar Ujala Hindi newspaper publish cooking recipes, sweet making tips etc. content that really excites housewives to try and implement the recipes.
Importance of newspaper of elderly people
Elderly people living in the cities use newspaper as a part of life. They are newspaper learners from childhood. It helps them to understand how people, societies, countries are doing in today’s time. And what was it the time when they are young?
Now they can use their own experiences and knowledge to guide younger generation, own family, and societies to handle the today’s time problems.
The newspaper is like a friend for elderly people. It helps them in time pass when they feel bored or alone at home.
Importance of newspaper for Politicians
For politicians newspaper and news is the prime source of information for politicians.
The newspaper helped them to understand people problems. They get information about the crisis in a particular area and what other politicians are doing on ground level in the country.
The newspaper helps them to generate new issues and debates. It also helps them to make headlines and own political brand building and positioning in the democracy.
Importance of newspaper for Job Seekers
Job seekers can see various new jobs and employment opportunity in the newspaper. Often private companies and government department, recruitment agencies use newspaper a prime source for job advertisements and news. That’s why it’s important for job seekers to remain updated about the current government and private sector job opportunities.
In India, there is a special newspaper and weekly publications such as classified page, job & career, career point and employment newspaper.
If job seekers read a variety of newspaper in a month in a public library or at home then it will help them to acquire new information, knowledge and data that can help them in competitive exams and interviews. That’s why newspaper or ePaper is an important thing to streamline in the day.
Importance of newspaper for teachers
News on newspaper impact on people differently. Some use the news as a part of political issues, some use as lessons, some us a general knowledge and some find it funny or subject of joy.
But only teachers can understand why it’s happening such as if there are financial crises in the country then only economics teachers, professor or expert can understand. They can use this information to guide students. And they can show the methods and ways to handle economic conditions in various situations. And students can learn more about the details that are impactful from teachers rather than news anchor or reporter or politicians.
That’s why I think if teachers read the newspaper then they can update and make students future proof or train them to handle future economic, social and personal problems in best possible methods.
It’s because they are expert in that subject, they know why something is happening and what will be the best solution so that kind of things never happens again.
Such as if there is news on black money on newspaper then teachers can teach students how black money affects society and country negatively. You can say that today, students can learn on the internet.
But remember that on the internet people do the analyses based on their situations or knowledge. And in classroom teachers do the analysis based on classroom goals.
The goal is a reason. Teacher’s goal is to make students powerful and knowledgeable and on the internet publisher goal is the make something viral and earn money quickly.
That’s why I think newspaper reading is the prime practical source of information for students. And if students are not aware of the current activities happening in the country teachers can update students with proper methods.
If they understand about the news from teachers they can understand the news better. Else most of the news can impact on students negatively.
Importance of newspaper for ragman
Used or old newspapers are the income source for ragman and scrappers. They visit each door in the village, city and collect old newspaper and sell to next buyers.
It helps them to generate income and earn some money. Most of these people are not well educated. And some of are doing it because of there is no other employment scope in the city. And it also helps to recycle newspaper into the newer version or model or product. That’s how you can identify the value of the old newspaper.
Importance of newspaper for publishers
Newspaper publishing is one the biggest industry worldwide. Here you can learn about the history of newspaper publishing in India or worldwide. Newspaper publishers generate revenue from advertisement.
There are various people involved in the newspaper publishing, reporting, advertisement, marketing, designing and management. Newspaper publisher, companies and agencies provided or generate employment for people. And most important it is providing information with facts and figures to the public.
Importance of newspaper for democracy
The newspaper is important to report to the public what government is doing? What are new policies? What new bill passed by a representative of people for people.
It will help people to understand the political ethics of their representative and their stand on a particular subject such as what government is doing to increase GDP? Which political party taking this step seriously etc.? Learning about these things in newspaper give enough idea for people to understand past, present and future activities of government. That’s why I think the newspaper is important for the value established in democracy.
Marketing channel for companies and business owners
While internet marking is the trend and it’s very cost effective and targeted. But traditional advertising such as newspaper advertising is the method in which business, companies and political leaders can communicate with common people in the sense of marketing and advertising.
Now, in conclusion, I will say that newspaper is an important source of tax collection for the government. It is a source of income and job for many people. The newspaper sometime works as an evidence and proof of incidents. And most important it is the source of data and information that help to increase awareness, knowledge of the citizens in a country.
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